Eagles Can’t Hang Onto 14-0 Lead
Albuquerque’s best high school football rivalry was renewed Thursday night, and it boiled down to this: La Cueva operating at 75 percent efficiency was still too much for Eldorado.
The Bears spotted the Eagles the first two touchdowns, but, thanks to Ronnie Daniels, Jordan Wade and the charitable donations of the Eagles, third-ranked La Cueva rebounded for a 39-20 homecoming win at Wilson Stadium.
“We could easily be 1-4 right now, but our team has battled through it,” said La Cueva coach Fred Romero of his 4-1 Bears.
The Bears responded to a 14-0 first-quarter deficit with 33 unanswered points.
“I think we just had to stay patient,” said Daniels, the dynamic junior who, after a slow first half — 11 carries for 43 yards — finished with 34 rushes for 190 yards and three short touchdown runs.
Eldorado, ranked No. 9, had two weeks of rest to get ready. Injured tailback Gary Maestas back also returned.
“Armin (Day) is a great quarterback and Gary is a great running back,” said Daniels. “We weren’t shocked (they came out so fast).”
The Eagles parlayed this into a surprisingly dominant first quarter.
Eldorado (2-2) rammed it down La Cueva’s throat on the opening drive, going 92 yards in eight plays. Day finished it with a 2-yard TD throw to Jonathan Trujillo.
After a defensive stop, Eldorado went 59 yards in seven plays for a 14-0 lead.
On a fourth-and-2, Day scrambled. While the Bears defense inched toward Day, 6-foot-5 receiver Tyler McCulloch slipped away unseen. There was not a Bear defender within 10 yards when Day spotted him for a 39-yard TD in the final minute of the quarter.
But the Eagles practically melted down in the second quarter.
A high snap over the punter’s head — and the subsequent poor decision by the punter to bring the ball out of the end zone — set La Cueva up at the Eldorado 5.
“Probably should have taken a safety there when you’re up 14-0,” EHS coach Charlie Dotson said.
Two plays later, and following a 15-yard penalty, La Cueva QB Wade and Joe Foster combined on a 20-yard middle screen for a touchdown.
Another two plays later, Day was intercepted by Collin Knee, putting the Bears at the Eagles’ 11. That led to a 2-yard score by Daniels.
“I’m sure like Eldorado feels they gave us two easy touchdowns and let us back in the game,” Romero said.
Wade scored on a 25-yard scramble late in the half as the Bears led 19-14 at intermission.
Daniels rushed for 88 of his yards on the pivotal drive of the game, the Bears’ second of the third quarter. It began at the La Cueva 10.
Daniels busted a 54-yard run on a second-and-32, Wade completed a key 18-yarder to Chris Frame on third down, and Daniels punctuated it with a 4-yard TD and a 26-14 lead. He added a 2-yard TD with 8:46 left in the game for 33-14.
McCulloch was a bright spot for Eldorado, catching 10 passes for 162 yards and two TDs.